5 Places Not-to-Miss In/Near Orlando

Les and I visited the Farrs, friends of ours, in Orlando in April. Locals can tell you places to visit you would never have found on your own. Here are five within an hour of Orlando that were well worth visiting:

Les cooking his pancakes and eggs on the griddle at The Old Spanish Sugar Mill

1. Old Spanish Sugar Mill at DeLeon Springs State Park—Cook your own pancakes on the griddle located in the center of your table. You can order blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce to mix into your 5-flour stonemill batter or unbleached white batter. It’s a rip-roaring fun breakfast that’s available until 4 p.m.

2. Orlando Wetlands Park in Christmas, Florida—If you like bird-watching, or simply want to spot alligators , this spot is for you. Walk the trails and bring your binoculars. I suggest you download the trail map before you go so you know where you’re walking and which trail to take. Put on plenty of sunscreen and take water along. Be forewarned that when an alligator flops into the water right next to where you’re walking, it can be scary—just ask my husband Les!

3. Winter Park Farmers’ Market and Downtown—This is probably not a kid-friendly activity, but if you’re adults with a Saturday morning to stroll, head to Winter Park. The farmers’ market is filled with fresh foods and flowers. And the nearby Park Avenue boasts explorable shops (including Penzey’s Spices) and yummy eateries (like Croissant Gourmet). I understand the Morse Museum has an amazing Tiffany exhibit, including a captivating chapel. And while a bit away from downtown, if you appreciate outstanding seafood, take a trip to the Winter Park Fish Co.

Tree inside the Wycliffe Discover Center with leaves representing each of the 1,919 people groups who still have no Scripture in their language.

And now come the two I don’t want you to miss:

4. Wycliffe Discovery Center—This is the chief reason we were spending time in Orlando with the Farrs; they’re missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. The Discovery Center has fascinating displays about translation and literacy around the world. (Did you know there is at least one language that can be whistled?) There are still 1,919 people groups that have never had a word of the Bible translated into their language. Wycliffe is working to reduce that number. You’ll see life-size statues of some national translators wearing the translators’ actual clothes and hear recordings of John 3:16 in that language. The tree in the photo had a strong impact on me—every leaf represents one of the 1,919 people groups that have no verse of the Bible in their own heart language.

Plenty of hands-on displays mean the kids will have a blast:

  • Print out their name in a dozen languages
  • Make an etching of a Bible verse from an ancient language
  • Listen to “tonal” languages and see if they can tell the difference between two words that sound alike but mean very different things
  • Watch videos
  • Solve puzzles
  • See Bibles in languages from around the world
  • Choose a people group that has no Bible to pray for

There is a charge to get into the center, but it’s well worth the visit for everyone in the family.

5. The Jesus Film Studio Tour—The Jesus Film, a project of CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) has been dubbed into 1,200 languages and shown to millions of people in 200 countries around the world. The film tells the story of Jesus and is based on the book of Luke in the Bible. The studio tour, located at CRU headquarters just up the road from Wycliffe, explains how the dubbing of the languages is done (on-site, with speakers for whom it is their native language). One person in your group—maybe you, if you volunteer—will have the opportunity to record his or her own voice in a simulated dubbing and take home the recording as a souvenir (mine came complete with my blooper). Many of the translations used for the film project are those produced by Wycliffe teams.

These last two visits could be done in a half a day if you scheduled the trip right. Call the organizations to set up your tour times. The tours would be perfect for a rainy day—or any day you’re looking for a break from theme-park madness.



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